story: Jim Dyar
Riverfront playhouse’s big plans for downtown redding Trying to raise big dollars in a stagnant economy is no easy task. But the members of the Riverfront Playhouse Capital Campaign Committee are motivated by a singular vision. They know a new theater in downtown Redding will provide an enormous boost to the community.
“It’s such an important part of the revitalization of our downtown,” says Mary Forbes, chair of the committee. “The theater is going to be state of the art, and it will fill a niche in terms of its size. It will be perfect, not just for theater, but events like foreign films, dance recitals and anything that has to do with the performing arts.”
The new theater will have 185 seats, which will make it an excellent venue for smaller events not appropriate for the 999-seat Cascade Theatre or the 2,000-seat Redding Convention Center.
Riverfront, a non-profit community theater, has produced shows in Redding for the past 28 years. The playhouse has spent the majority of its time in an industrial space at the end of East Cypress Avenue. The theater’s obscure location, limited and odd seating arrangement and leaky roof put a premium on finding a new home.
When the playhouse opens downtown, supporters believe it will not only boost the stakes for live theater in Redding, but also enhance culture and business downtown.
“Anything downtown that extends the hours past 5 pm is a positive,” says Larry Morgon, a committee member and retired senior planner for the city of Redding. “It would help all the restaurants and clubs. It gives downtown more of the feel of a neighborhood, not just a business district.”
Here’s where the project currently stands: Nearly $700,000 has been raised in individual donations by residents and businesses. The City of Redding has deeded a $325,000 property, a former auto repair and tire shop on the corner of Pine and Placer streets, to Riverfront. James Theimer’s Trilogy Architecture company has completed plans on the design of the new theater, which will be a 15,000-square foot space.
Riverfront hopes to have design and construction documents completed by the end of 2009, with the goal of breaking ground in 2010. The theater group must begin construction no later than March 2011 and must reach completion by March 2013 to fulfill its contractual obligation with the city.
A lot of fundraising remains. The committee needs to raise an additional $1.4 million to complete the project. Money continues to trickle in from fundraising events and from donations that follow design presentations hosted by Theimer. Proceeds from plays (after operating costs) also go toward the fundraising effort.
Riverfront’s current show, the comedy “Who’s in Bed With the Butler,” continues on Friday and Saturday nights through Aug. 15. There are also Sunday matinees on Aug. 2 and 9, and a special capital campaign fundraising show on Thursday, Aug. 13. For tickets and more information, visit www.riverfrontplayhouse.net.
“There are still a lot of people who have never seen a show at Riverfront,” says Dan Kupsky, a committee member, actor and retired Redding police officer. “I invite people to come down and see the quality of shows that are being produced there. They’re often very surprised.”
On Sept. 12, a fundraising event called “Rocky’s Curtain Call” will take place at the residence of the late Rocky Main. The $25 social event will include live music, a silent auction, food by C.R. Gibbs, wine and scenes from the play “Philadelphia Story.” The committee hopes the event will raise enough money to fund the cost of the new theater’s main curtain. For ticket information, call (530) 547-5648.
There’s also a seat-selling campaign. Front-row seats may be sponsored for $1,000 each. All other seats are $500. Any contribution of $1,000 or more will receive permanent recognition on a commemorative plaque inside the new theater.
As encouraged as committee members are by the nearly $700,000 raised in community donations, they believe major grants are probably the key to reaching the final total. The committee is working on grant proposals, and members continue to communicate with possible major funders. In the meantime, every dollar helps, especially during the current economic trend.
“Everybody has felt this pinch (with the economy),” says Forbes. “It is a concern, but I don’t think it’s affected us any more than any other non-profit. Maybe it’s a bigger challenge, but so far we haven’t felt frustrated.” •
The exterior façade of the theatre has been designed to create an urban scale for this community playhouse while maintaining a piece of Downtown Redding’s history. Rendering courtesy of Trilogy Architecture.